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Houston Staff

Lubabah Abdullah

Executive Director, Houston

Lubabah Abdullah joined Tahirih in 2021 as the Executive Director of the Tahirih Justice Center’s Houston Office. As a long-time attorney, Ms. Abdullah worked at Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, the Julian Center, one of the first family justice centers in the United States, and the Muslim Alliance of Indiana as Executive Director. She has managed and established multiple legal programs, including a modest-means legal clinic, a pro-bono protection order program which ensured that every woman who came to the courthouse for a protection order had an attorney to advocate alongside her. She started her own law practice in 2009 and focused primarily on serving families, through family law, estate planning, and family-based immigration. Much of her work in the nonprofit sector, as well as her own personal law practice, has focused on creating a holistic approach to client’s problems. She firmly believes that in helping a family address not just their legal problems, she is able to provide them the tools necessary to heal themselves, their children, their families, and their communities making us all stronger and more resilient.

From her 20+ years of experience at nonprofits, she is committed to building consensus, rooted in values of transparent decision-making and communication.  She has a strong commitment to education, outreach, and advocacy, and long history of personal and professional commitment to the immigrant community. She has a Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri and speaks fluent Arabic and conversational Spanish. She sits on the board of the Islamic Society of North America and steering committee of Houston Faith Leaders Coalition. She served as a Board member of Al-Salam Day School for seven years and founded a new campus of the school. She is also an advisor to the Peaceful Families Project, which is devoted to preventing domestic violence, with a particular focus on Muslim families of diverse cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. She is a member of the Houston Muslim Bar Association and Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, the Missouri Bar Association, and the Texas Bar Association.

One of the things that I love about Tahirih is the unique interdisciplinary approach to direct services, including legal and social services, policy advocacy, training and education. In the fight to end gender-based violence, we must help address all areas of a client’s needs because they are the experts for their own life journey.

Education: Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate, the University of Missouri

Hometown: Chicago/St. Louis

Alondra Andrade

Community Engagement Coordinator

Alondra joined Tahirih in 2020. As the Community Engagement Coordinator, Alondra is responsible for supporting the advancement of local and regional strategies that combat the barriers immigrant survivors face to obtain safety and dignity under the law. Prior to joining Tahirih, she volunteered with Tahirih Houston as a social services volunteer. She has also volunteered with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights as a child advocate where she ensured that all decisions made on behalf of an immigrant child takes into consideration the child’s best interest. Additionally, she has volunteered as a translator at Casa Juan Diego clinic in Houston. Alondra also worked as the temporary Office Administrator at the Tahirih Houston office in 2019.

“The strength of Tahirih clients is electrifying and I am grateful to be able to join them in their fight for justice. As the daughter of immigrants I feel extremely connected to Houston’s resilient community members and the hardships that accompany being an immigrant in this country.”

Education: University of St. Thomas, BA
Languages: Spanish
Hometown: Houston, Texas

Corina Azpurua

Legal Advocate

Corina Azpurua joined Tahirih in 2018. As a Legal Advocate in the Houston office, Corina conducts screenings for potential clients, prepares immigration forms and filings, assembles application packets; schedules and meets with clients and provide administrative support. Prior to joining Tahirih, Corina worked with Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative as the Program Coordinator.

I am inspired by the courage and resilience of every client we serve and by the amazing team working to empower women and children. I am honored to be part of a great mission.

Education: Bachelor of Law, Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, Caracas Venezuela

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela

Sofia Barbosa

Weil Legal Innovator and Health Justice Coordinator

Sofia Barbosa joined Tahirih in 2021. As Weil Legal Innovator in the Houston office, Sofia serves as Health Justice Coordinator. Within this role, she supports the Policy & Advocacy team while working to increase health access for immigrant survivors and their families in the Houston area. Prior to joining Tahirih, Sofia served as a volunteer in emergency rooms and inpatient units of public hospital centers providing care to underserved communities in New York City and Mexico City. She also spent four years working as a research assistant in a biomedical engineering laboratory at Columbia University where she spearheaded an NIH R21-funded study within the field of orthopedics. Through her research, Sofia is second author on a paper in Biotechnology and Bioengineering (2020) and she has co-authored six abstract submissions to national and international conferences. Additionally, Sofia spent her senior year developing a gunshot wound treatment to be used in the event of a shooting, earning her team second place in their biomedical engineering class. Following her time at Tahirih, Sofia will pursue her JD at the University of Pennsylvania as a Dean’s Fellow.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s mission to serve brave immigrant survivors through innovative, empowering, and survivor-centered advocacy and legal support.”

Education: Columbia University, MS & BS

Languages: Spanish and French

Hometown: New York, NY

Matthew Bratek

Legal Advocate

Matthew Bratek joined Tahirih in 2021. As a Legal Advocate in the Houston office, Matthew conducts pre-screens and intakes with potential clients, provides legal advocacy, organizes legal clinics, and provides administrative support to the legal team. Prior to joining Tahirih, Matthew served as a Legal Assistant with the Karnes Pro-Bono Project at RAICES helping to represent and defend asylum seekers subject to Expedited Removal. Before RAICES, Matthew served as an AmeriCorps member with Catholic Charities Diocese of Fort Worth providing Cultural Orientation and ESL to newly arrived refugees and asylees. While attending the University of North Texas as an undergrad, Matthew published a thesis entitled “Intervention and Protection: Impact of Humanitarian Intervention on Human Rights Violations.” Matthew lived and studied in Granada, Spain while attending university. Matthew has visited 8 countries including Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Poland and Morocco, and hopes to grow that list!

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s work to combat violence and abuse against women and children while providing them a platform to access justice and have their voices heard. It is an honor to advocate for the rights of our clients while working for an organization that not only empowers but recognizes each individual as an expert in their own journey.”

Education: University of North Texas, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Buffalo, New York

Kristen Cates

Staff Attorney

Kristen Cates joined Tahirih in 2021. As a Staff Attorney, Kristen represents immigrants who have experienced gender-based violence before the Immigration Court and USCIS. Prior to joining Tahirih, Kristen was a Supervising Immigration Attorney with the Houston-based nonprofit BakerRipley, where she worked collaboratively as part of the Deportation Defense Houston (DDH) initiative, providing pro bono legal representation to detained immigrants in the greater Houston area who faced imminent removal. In this role, Kristen also provided non-detained and affirmative immigration legal services for community members in the greater Pasadena area. Prior to that, Kristen worked as a staff attorney and Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at RAICES, in San Antonio, Texas, where she was part of the Family Detention team and provided pro bono legal services and representation to the mothers and children detained at the Karnes County Residential Facility. Kristen was also previously a staff attorney and Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at Safe Horizon Immigration Law Project, located in Brooklyn, New York, where she provided pro bono legal services and representation to survivors of violence in their affirmative and defensive immigration matters. Kristen has lived and studied in Spain and Italy.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to serving immigrant survivors of gender-based violence, and I remain in awe of the resilient, brave clients we serve and their ability to show up for themselves in such difficult circumstances. It is such a privilege to be doing this work.”

Education: Georgetown University, BA; Georgetown University Law Center, JD

Languages: Spanish, Italian

Hometown: Acworth, Georgia

 

Samantha Del Bosque

Senior Staff Attorney

Samantha Del Bosque joined Tahirih in 2012. As a Senior Staff Attorney in Houston, Samantha represents women and girls in front of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration Court. An active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), she currently serves on the National Refugee and Asylum Committee and serves as the Asylum Office Liaison for the Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico Chapter. Samantha is admitted to practice in Federal Court (Southern District of Texas). Prior to Tahirih, she worked as a Staff Attorney at Catholic Charities and a Student Attorney at the Immigration Clinic at University of Houston Law Center. She is recipient of the University of Houston Law Center’s Dean’s Scholarship, Public Interest Fellowship, Equal Justice Works Summercorps Fellowship, Buick Wynne Environmental Law Scholarship, and Joseph Hensley Memorial Award. Before Law School, Samantha taught Spanish to disadvantaged and at risk children in the Houston area. Samantha was born and raised in France and has traveled extensively.

“Empowering women to live their lives as they choose. Growing up in a western country, I was privileged enough to dream of what and whom I wanted to be, and more importantly, I was able to follow that dream. This is not the case for the vast majority of women in the rest of the world. Working at Tahirih helps redress this injustice.”

Education: University of Houston Law Center, JD; University of Houston, BA; Universite de Bordeaux, France

Languages: French and Spanish

Hometown: Bordeaux, France

Katharina Dechert

Legal Advocate

Katharina Dechert joined Tahirih in 2016. As a Legal Advocate, Katharina conducts pre-screens and intakes with potential clients, provides legal advocacy, organizes legal clinics, and provides administrative support to the legal team. She also assists the Managing Attorney with administering Tahirih’s Pro Bono Network. Prior to Tahirih, Katharina was the Policy Advocacy and Leadership Associate for Asylum Access Ecuador. Before that, she was an intern at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands and was a Human Rights Accompanier in Guatemala. Katharina has lived in Australia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and in the Netherlands.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to empowering immigrant women and girls to reject violence and seek justice so that they can freely rebuild their lives safe from persecution.”

Education: University of Queensland, MIS; Wellesley College, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Laramie, WY

Javier Arturo Dominguez

Children’s Attorney

Javier Dominguez joined Tahirih in 2014. As Children’s Attorney, Javier represents girls and immigrant children in family courts, juvenile law courts, state courts, and immigration court. His legal representation includes filing applications for gender-based asylum, protecting survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other violent crimes, and ensuring that children qualify for the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Prior to Tahirih, he worked as a staff attorney for Catholic Charities. Before law school, he was the Legislative Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Javier was born and raised in the transnational border region of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He studied abroad in both Spain and Brazil.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s legacy in transforming the lives of countless survivors of abuse and injustice. It has always been my passion to help immigrants and make a difference in their lives. I am thrilled to be working for this prestigious organization and helping to extend its legacy to promote social justice.”

Education: University of Seattle Law School, JD; Brown University, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: El Paso, TX

Elizabeth Hasse

Staff Attorney

Elizabeth Hasse joined Tahirih in 2014. As a Staff Attorney, Elizabeth represents women and girls in front of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Prior to working at Tahirih, Elizabeth interned at Tahirih’s DC office and at KIND in Boston. She also worked as a student attorney at Boston University School of Law’s Asylum and Human Rights Clinic. Prior to law school, Elizabeth worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jinotega, Nicaragua. In college, she studied abroad in Santiago, Chile, Oaxaca, Mexico, and Cusco, Peru.

“My clients are the some of the strongest women and girls that I have met. By the time they get to us, they have already done the hard part by fleeing violence and traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to get here. I am honored to help them seek protection.”

Education: Boston University School of Law, JD; University of Notre Dame, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Iron Mountain, MI

Laura Hernandez

Social Service Associate

Laura Hernandez joined Tahirih in 2021. As Social Services Associate, Laura connects clients with local resources following a holistic view of their needs. Prior to working at Tahirih, Laura worked at Justice For All Immigrants as a Legal Assistant where she helped represent clients with family-based petitions, naturalizations, and humanitarian-based relief. Before JFAI, Laura worked with Catholic Charities of he Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston as a Lead Case Manager, where she helped with the reunification of detained immigrant children. While working with a variety of non-profit organizations, she has focused her work in helping survivors of abuse, trafficking, and other trauma. Familiar with the challenges of the immigrant experience, Laura continues to volunteer across Houston with Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority, where she helps coordinate programs that bring awareness to educational, cultural, social, and political topics.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s leading advocacy work. I am honored to work with such a devoted team, whose mission is to bring multi-generational justice to survivors of gender-based violence.”

Education: University of Houston, BA, MSW

Languages: Spanish, English

Hometown: Ciudad Valles, Mexico

Jessica Howton

Managing Attorney

Jessica Howton joined Tahirih in 2011. As Managing Attorney for Tahirih Houston, she provides legal representation to clients, particularly minors, mentors pro bono attorneys, oversees the Houston pro bono program, and manages the Houston legal team and its program. Prior to joining Tahirih, Jessica was an intern at Kids in Need of Defense during law school, where she represented unaccompanied migrant children. After law school, she earned a Notre Dame fellowship to serve at Tahirih as a staff attorney. Jessica studied abroad in France, London, and Cameroon. In Cameroon, she worked in protection office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and conducted evaluation missions along the Nigerian border. Jessica currently serves as the co-chair of the Texas Immigration Task Force, where she leads quarterly meetings and presentations on current trends and updates in immigration law.

“I am consistently inspired by my co-workers and the amazing women and children that we serve. It is an honor to work with our clients and help to provide them with the support and strength they deserve as they courageously stand up for their right to live in safety and have access to justice. Our clients are the most resilient women and children I have ever met and the strength, hope, and achievement they show as they fight for their basic human rights is truly amazing.”

Education: Notre Dame Law School, JD; Connecticut College, BA

Languages: Spanish and French

Hometown: Bucaramanga, Colombia

Natalie Matuszczak

Social Services Associate

Natalie Matuszczak joined Tahirih in 2020. As Social Services Associate, Natalie provides case management and brief social services support to service seekers. To help women and girls rebuild their lives free from violence, she assists them with safety planning and connects them with food, medical care, mental health, housing/shelter, and education through referrals.

Prior to joining Tahirih, Natalie was a Program Coordinator at YMCA International Services where she managed programs in the areas of citizenship education, microenterprise development and disaster recovery for newcomer immigrant communities. Natalie has also studied abroad in Grenoble, France, and Reykjavik, Iceland, and spent a school year teaching English to primary school students in northern France.

Women and girls are particularly vulnerable immigrants because of longstanding social and cultural inequities that exist around the world. I am honored to contribute to Tahirih’s mission of empowering immigrant women and find inspiration in our clients’ courage and determination to live free from violence.

Languages: French; basic Polish and Spanish

Education: University of Michigan, BA

Hometown: Gulfport, Mississippi

 

Karla Perez

Equal Justice Works Fellow

Karla Perez joined Tahirih in 2018. As an Equal Justice Works Fellow Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP and The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Karla represents immigrant women and girls who are survivors of gender-based violence in underserved communities surrounding the greater Houston region. Prior to joining Tahirih, Karla completed internships with the Immigration and Citizenship Program at Baker Ripley, Tahirih Justice Center, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

I am inspired by Tahirih’s work to provide holistic legal services to immigrant women and girls amidst constant changes in local and national policy for the immigrant community. As an immigrant myself, I am incredibly proud to serve our courageous and resilient clients.

Education: University of Houston Law Center, JD; University of Houston, BBA

Language: Spanish

Hometown: Mexico City